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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Resources] : Student Interviews


Please note : This student wishes to remain anonymous. Therefore where ever possible we have removed the names of any persons involved, as well as details of the university and the course. These have been replaced and can be seen between brackets.

Name :
Level of study :
UCAS Disability code :
3 - deaf or hearing impaired


What route have you taken into university? Have you done A' levels or an Access course?

I actually did a GNVQ Health and Social Care. I had a break of a year before I actually came to university because I had an operation on my ears.

What sort of support did you get there, if any?

I didn't need any because my hearing wasn't as bad as it is now. It was the operation that I had in the gap where I incurred the disability really.

Were you planning on taking that gap or was it...?

No. It was purely because of the operation. Originally, I was due to start on the (name of course), which was two intakes. So I thought I would go in on the February intake rather than.... but because I was left with virtually no hearing at all I had to leave that.

How did you get information about how you would get support on the course?

Mainly information about support that I needed was once I'd been accepted. I think it was SKILL, the one on ***** Road that did a full assessment on me.

Just explain, you said you had an operation and you had to have a gap between the GNVQ and coming to university. In what ways did that affect you in terms of your education? Were there any difficulties when you came in February? When was the operation in relation to that?

I finished the GNVQ in June '98. I was slightly hard of hearing and used to wear a moderate hearing aid on my left side. I'd virtually little hearing on my right side anyway. I had the mastoid operation on my left ear in July '98 which I came out of with virtually no hearing at all. So my plans were to go on the nursing course in February of the following year but because I was left with no hearing, I didn't. I got a little bit back and was then planning to have another operation for a bone conduction hearing aid. I think the first one was February and the second was about July 99. I was still having those done when I applied to (university's name) and got accepted. Nobody, myself included, knew how successful that would be. (University's name) was also aware that I was having this operation, and that it could improve my hearing but it may not. During that time, I'd started to use a normal hearing aid in my right ear, which I still use occasionally and have had to use all the way through clinical. I wear both hearing aids at the same time.

You said Nursing, did you mean (name of course) or were you planning to do nursing first and then you had to switch to (name of course)?

I was planning nursing and actually applied for the September intake at (another university's name), which I got accepted on. I planned to do paediatric nursing originally but I did a medical assessment there and they said, 'No, we don't think you're suitable for paediatrics because you couldn't wear a stethoscope or would find it very difficult'. But they would accept me on the adult nursing which is what they used to classify normal nursing. So I was accepted on that and I was accepted for (name of course) at the same time so I actually turned nursing down for it.

Why in particular?

I thought I would fare better, personally, as a (name of profession) because a lot of the time it's one to one, as I understood it. Of course there would be difficulties for me when I was working in theatre because I was up there on my own as a (name of profession) working with a different teams who would not be used to and have masks on and things like that which I've actually had experience of in theatre and I've done fine.

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What sort of information did you get about university, in terms of how you apply?

I went through the UCAS procedure but I specifically wanted (name of university) because they had the course that I wanted and because I live in (name of city) and I wanted to stay here.

Before you were accepted, did you have an interview?

Yes, I did.

Was there any mention of support at all?

No, there wasn't at that stage but they were aware that I was nearly deaf. I didn't know what support I would be given, or what support I would need because it's a vocational course - (name of course). There was some clinical work involved. Of course (name of university) were more aware of what that would entail more than I was at that time.

Did you get a chance to talk about that at the interview?


It wasn't raised as an issue at the time?

No. It wasn't a big issue at that time. Like I said, they knew that I needed support but I wasn't told what that kind of support that would be or the extent of it.

On the UCAS forms there are two sections to do with Disability and serious medical conditions. Did you identify yourself at that stage?

Yes, I did.

What do you feel about that process..?

I think at that stage I made it very, very clear what my disability was. I made that very clear at the interview. But I don't think they actually realised the extent of it.

You didn't have any qualms about identifying yourself on the application?


You were fine about that?

Well, I've been totally honest all the way through.

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On the course

So you said about (name of access centre), you had an assessment. How did that kick in? You say once you got accepted on to the course.

That was very good I got support through equipment and I was given an allowance for a note taker but it was very difficult to find a not taker that was actually suitable who understood the subject. A lot of it was all typed up lectures which meant extra reading. When we eventually found a note taker, I only actually had a note taker during the whole course for about six months because I found it so difficult to find someone who could do those hours who had medical knowledge and who could be there for the gaps between academic and clinical.

Just one step back with that. I'm trying to work out the progress of your assessment. Was it done in the summer before you came in to university?

I think it was done during the induction week in actually.

It was quite early on?

Yes. It was a very extensive report that outlined the kind of support I needed. I should have had language support because really I was picking up new vocabulary.

That was mentioned in the report?

Everything was mentioned in the report. It was very extensive but the department didn't actually take those up.

How did you find the interview for the assessment, you know, the information you got about that? Were you clear on the purpose and goal of it and so on?

Yes. They were good, they were very helpful, understanding. I felt that they offered the kind of help that I did need throughout the whole course. But I didn't get that help at all.

Now the report goes to yourself and to the Local Education Authority.
Did it go to the Course?


Do you know what happened next? Were you invited to talk to the Course Leader? How was the report implemented within (name of university)?

Not at all. The department had received the report and they seemed to ignore everything on it. The kind of educational support that I required, the kind of assistance I needed, the kind of learning support that I needed to get through. They've shown no understanding of my disability even though it was very clearly outlined in that. It was just virtually ignored.

Just explain all that's going on is maybe a good idea.

What's actually happened with me is that I have done two and a half years clinical. In February this year, which would have been my final year, they suspended me deeming me clinically incompetent. So that went to an inquiry, as a result of which they are still deeming me clinically incompetent. Not because of any malpractice or any ethical issue but purely on the basis that they don't think I can be a (name of profession) because of my deafness. I've had no failure academically, so I can't graduate, I can't finish the course as this is six months before.

So you've got six months left of the course, effectively. You've done two and a half years.

I would have done, yes. I left in February - six months ago. I had six months to complete the qualification when they turned around and said, 'No, she's unfit.'

Who's making that judgement? It's the clinical placement people?

They've come from reports based on clinical, some of them not truthful. But the way I see it, I'm a student. They can write absolutely anything about me, which they have done. Some of them are very, very petty and some of them are very personal and it's on that basis that the Course Leader decided that I couldn't continue.

Just tell me what academic support (in lectures) do you need within the university?

I had electrical equipment mainly a computer so that they could send me lecture notes beforehand or the lecturer could communicate more easily with me and then I would have a written copy of what was going on. I never got pre-lecture notes or anything. It wasn't used as it was intended. I did have a note taker who was very good but she was finding it increasingly difficult to fit in my hours with other students she was working with. A lot of the tutorials were a film viewing or practicals so often she wasn't needed there. They were small groups and they were easy and we were always in the same groups so I formed relationships with other people so I coped well with them. Other than that, no support was given to me.

What difficulties occur in the lectures?

When we had the lecturers that were based here at the university, they were fine because I got used to his voice and I got used to the lecture format. They generally involved copying off the board or group discussion, so I could cope well with them, if there were any guest lecturers, which could just turn up the day before, because they were arranging a consultant from such a place, we wouldn't know who they were and they wouldn't know about me, I would have to tell them 'Can you make sure you do this, speak clearly and slowly down', that kind of thing.

In terms of informing people who are lecturers here, have you had to do that or has that been done through the Disability Office?

I've had to do it. Although the Disability Office have always been good if I come up against any problems, they've always been there as an advocate to put my point of view across.

And how have lecturers responded when you say to them 'Can you keep still' or 'speak more slowly'?

As far as they were concerned nobody else has ever had as much support as me. They thought they were supporting me as much as they could but I've since found out that these three deaf students on the (name of course) who have similar hearing problems to me and they have got extensive support: mentors in clinical placement, mentors here... Extensive support, which they said they weren't aware of, and they've only just found this out.

Sorry? Your course tutors just found this out?

Yes, my course have only just found this out.

Are they saying they would have copied that level of support?


You do seminars, group work? You know, you were saying about questions and answers in the lectures. How is that for you, are you okay with that?

We did what was called a multi-disciplinary module, where we were working with prosthetics and they were discussing things. I found that very difficult and I found it very difficult to control where I was sitting, getting people to look at me when they were talking. They would often forget I think and because people were saying some many different things at the same time, I was missing an awful lot.

And did the tutor help in any way, in terms of running the conversation?

No, not really because they didn't really understand hearing impairment. I think that's the basis of it, they didn't understand the problems I can face. So they just think 'She's alright because you can have a conversation with her.'

Yes. But it's tracking in a seminar. Tell me what makes it difficult, that situation.

It makes it difficult because somebody could jump in with a comment at any time. It was supposed to be different professionals' opinion of solutions to particular scenarios. Very little was written down so it was difficult to keep up. All this made me very tired and they didn't seem to understand that. I don't think giving proper support to the normal students anyway. It's a very difficult course to get through if you've got a family or things like that. There seem to be more mature students so they're not taking these things into account. I've asked them if they could extend the course till Christmas, whether they could extend the clinical component and they said, 'We'll see if we can make arrangements for that.' But I never had any feedback.

How have the other students been? Your friends on the course?

They've been fine. Some of them did seem to have an attitude problem but then they got to know me and realised that they could cope with me in a social sense and everything was fine.

You haven't had any bad experiences? Right, okay, what about the patients? Are they aware, do you make them aware?

Yes, I had to make them aware because it was a health and safety issue. This goes back to the suspension again. I would always introduce myself to the patient first my name and then I would say 'I'm very hard of hearing so could you speak nice and clearly. If you have any problems or you've got your back to me, let me know in such and such a way.' Depending on the examination I was doing. They were always fine, I think it's like a self-disclosure really. They open up to you.

But that's become part of work for you.

As far as I'm aware, no patient has ever made a complaint about me. At either (place name) or (place name).

Where are you with it all? You say you've been suspended, what's the next step? What's the situation? Is the university trying to forward it, are the Disability Office?

No, not really. I've just been suspended. I've left the course. They've agreed to award me a diploma, on the basis that I've done two years. But that's a non-specific Higher Education Diploma. I've actually got level 3 credits as well. I'm making arrangements myself, with the help of the Students' Advisory and the Student's Union, to get myself on another course. But I may not be able to follow that through because I may not be able to afford the fees involved. I'm not sure where my career path is now, because for the past three years I had this focus in mind. I was going into a profession, like I say, it's a vocational course. Lots of credits can't be carried forward anyway.

You've not made a complaint or an appeal to the Examination Board or anything?


Is that something that you've decided not to pursue or have you not been advised about it?

I was advised not to appeal against the decision made at the Inquiry on the basis that we felt unable to overturn this clinical decision; the decision to suspend me was clinical and not academic. I think that's come from the professional body who were actually at that enquiry based on things that had been written before. A lot of them were untrue or very exaggerated. They were saying that I had left a patient on the table and gone home. I wouldn't have done that in my first week. They're saying that I handled a syringe by the needle end, which is virtually impossible by the task that you are carrying through anyway. I've never been involved in performing injections, that's not part and parcel of the job. They were saying it was when I was drawing fluids, that I may have actually touched it. This would only have occurred once, even if I did, I would have been told at the time by the person supervising me for any of these errors.

You've had an Inquiry?

We've had the Inquiry but we don't think it's worth following the Appeal though, I've made no complaint to the university. I want to get on my new course. When I had the problem at university and the Superintendent did this assessment on me, which wasn't very objective. It was mainly 'Can this girl hear? She's deaf, can she hear the equipment?' It wasn't based on what I'd been doing that week which was chest x-rays and spinal work. The assessment should have been about whether I was up to speed on that. I was advised by (university's name) when I came in to make a complaint at that time about this assessment, by the Course Leader who felt I was being victimised and so she withdrew me from (place name). At that time I should have made a complaint against (place name) but I chose not to on the basis that I wanted to continue in this profession and that would have made it very difficult, practically impossible for me to do so. If I'd made any claims that they'd discriminated against me, I wish I had of done now.

Do you know what the format of that complaint would have been? Would it have been as a student through the university student complaints system?

I thought I was going to go through the Discriminatory Law for the employer against (hospital's name). I don't even know if you can still do that, of course it would be very costly and very time-consuming.

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Can you explain to me what the assessment schedule for the course is? You go for three month's lectures do you, and then a placement? How does that work across the course?

Usually, it works like that...roughly, not exactly... it's twelve weeks academic and twelve weeks clinical. It may not always be, it could be three months and six weeks in clinical. You would do the academic modules, you would do (name of subject) say, or Basic Procedures and then go into clinical. Practice those, be assessed on those, and then come back.

For the academic assessment, is it exams and essays?

Yes, there are exams involved at the end of each module. The clinical assessments are formative assessments based on the area that we work in because there's such a diverse area. So you could be doing (name of subject) academically and go back into practice but you may not have the opportunity, because you're actually in a clinical environment, to have that experience. Then they would do a formative assessment. I think there are supposed to be five or six assessments per year, perhaps more in the final year but they seemed to do one every week on me.

So they write a report on your progress?

All the time, yes.

Okay, and do you input into that?


In terms of what? Sitting down with the clinician and going through how you feel you've progressed. Is it an iterative process or is it just a case of somebody watching what you're doing the whole time and going away and writing a report?

No really it's working with people in a normal working environment. At the end of the week, you would get a set assessor. They may not be with you all the time, they may ask other people for their input on it and then the assessment would go forward. It will actually go forward to a clinical examination, a practical examination which is based in here. There's one every year. So if you pass that, you progress on.

So you passed the first two years even though you had all those difficulties. You've had problems but you've got through them. What was the final straw for them? Why have they suddenly decided 'Well, we've got her this far and she's got through. What are they saying is the key factor?

When the Course Leader actually suspended me at the meeting, he did actually turn round and say 'We feel that you might mis-identify a patient.' Of course we've got to be able to ensure it's the right patient because we're giving a medical treatment. It's not always possible because you've got unconscious patients and things like that. But there are different means other than asking their date of birth. They should have nametags and things like that. But never, throughout the two and a half years, did I ever mis-identify anybody or x-ray the left wrist when it should have been the right. I never did anything like that. There was an incident where I loaded a bit of equipment a bit too fast but it was actually very old. I think that because they didn't use it as much as they could have done, I wasn't aware of the speed and was unable to control it as much. No accident occurred because of that, but it could have happened so it's a lot of 'could ofs' and 'might have' happened.

And now they're making it specific to your hearing?

They won't actually turn round and say it's because of that. I understand their reasons for not saying it and I think they're cowards. They're saying it's because I've had a lot of minor errors but these minor errors have occurred, from my point of view, because the atmosphere that I was working in was absolutely atrocious. I was getting no help, I was getting no support at all. The course at that time was very difficult. We had a lot of academic work to do even though we were working 9 to 5. For me, my working day was actually twelve hours - I had no study time. I was under a lot of stress and pressure and I've gone to them and told them this and they've kind of used what I've said to put the nails in the coffin.

Do you get any additional help with examinations or have you had any extensions for assignments, that kind of thing? Was that recommended in the report?

I've had extensions because of personal or mitigating circumstances but they were only usually a week. As far as exams go, no, I've had no help in written exams. I don't think I needed it anyhow. In practical exams, the only support I was given, was being told what areas to revise or look into. We work in a clinical environment; they did these examinations here at the university which is actually in a false environment which made it difficult for all of us anyway. But no, I wasn't given any additional help.

And you don't feel that there's anything linked to your hearing impairment that would have helped? Is that not an area that you're particularly affected by?

I'm not sure whether they could have helped me further with that. In some respects they could have understood the disability more then they may come up with ideas for it how to help me because they're more used to setting up the examination and marking the projects.

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Was everything going all right on the placement?

I was originally placed at (name of hospital). I did roughly about eighteen months there. I did come up against personal problems with one of the senior members of staff who was actually involved in writing one of these assessments when she hadn't been involved in assessing me in the first place. But they weren't objective enough. They were very personal. So the decision was made to move me to (place name). It's a long way from home. It's a twenty five mile journey/round trip every day.

It used to take me an hour and a half each way on public transport because I don't drive. They were aware of that. I was actually the only student in my year up there so I had no peer support. The clinical tutor was very good to a point and I moved up there last February so I did twelve months there.

You said that was the only placement that would accept you?


Why is that?

Because the local hospitals didn't think that they could give me the support that I needed. But I didn't get the support at (place name) anyway. I had virtually no support.

They felt 'Yeah, okay - we'll have the student. We'll be able to support her.' But in reality...?

They didn't know what was involved. There were reports done at both placements, which were done independently. They called them Risk Assessments and they were conducted by (assessor's name) who was actually the tutor. She'd come in and assess the work place. We'd need to go through the files in a quiet area, we'd need to explain things properly to her and make sure she understood and these were deemed minimal recommendations under the Disability Discrimination Act. (Hospital's name) totally ignored them.

They said I should have had a 'Buddy System' so I knew what was going on. I should have had constant feedback that was monitored, a telephone that I should have been able to use. There was nothing, absolutely nothing.

Did you say the hospital mentioned those three things or was this from the report?

This was from report, what the hospital should implement. The general feeling was that the (member of staff) there didn't like it, didn't want to make these adaptations. They made no effort at all to fit me into that placement. There was just an attitude there and I couldn't break that barrier down on my own because I'm the only deaf student they've ever taken on. They had no experience, (name of professional body) turned round and said 'Nowhere in the country has it ever been tried before'. So it was an experiment. They didn't even consult the (name of professional body) as to what learning support I would need when they should have done. Basically, they've ignored a lot of things. They thought that because I can speak so well and communicate so well one-to-one, they didn't envisage what problems I would actually have in clinical. Now, they would be a better judge of that when I started the course because I didn't know what the course involved. It's hard for me to turn round and say 'I need this' and 'I need that', I needed somebody to come from outside and just tell them, which they did but they just ignored it.

That was (place name) and then a similar sort of thing occurred at....

They've had their reports, as you said, the two independent reports. Who do the reports go to? They've gone to anybody who's ever been involved in my education; clinical tutors, the staff, Course Leaders, Equalities Office...everyone.

And what was the situation at (hospital's name) then? Have they implemented any of those recommendations? Was another Risk Assessment done with them?

Yes, there was. (Name of assessor) actually took decibel counters into the environment to see what problems there are, it's a very noisy environment anyway because you've got printers and processors and all kinds of noisy equipment. All it simply needed was quiet areas to discuss things like procedures and information involving patients. There were quiet areas available but they didn't use them, they just let me carry on as though they were training somebody else, a normal (sic) person.

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Career Aspirations

In terms of careers information. What are you pursuing at the moment? Are you getting advice from the Students' Union or the Careers Office?

I've seen Careers Services and she thinks that, given my clinical background, she thinks I should move on to a Nursing course and see if I can carry my credits onto that. I feel that I will face the same problems, it's knocked my confidence, and self esteem to go through all that. I want to gain a degree because I don't think I'm worthy in the job market because of my disability.

You just need a degree in anything now? Obviously, you're thinking about your background, what would you study, do you think?

Possibly Health Studies which is an array of - Health Science: Social Policies, Health Science: Complementary Medicine. I've still got to see a few people to see what career path they could take me on. I'm unsure unless I find out from people what's involved with that course, information about: assessments, seminars, and tutorials. Unless I speak to other students, I won't commit myself to anything.

In terms of (student's course), as a course what three things would have helped you overcome the barriers? What could they have done to help you get through that course?

I think the first and most important thing they should have done, this was actually recommended as well, was staff awareness. I think this is a very tricky area because some can say, 'Yes, we're deaf-aware because we've got a hard of hearing consultant' but she's got a different type of hearing impairment'. That's what (hospital's name) was saying, yes we're very deaf aware but they weren't. Deaf awareness training for the lecturers, especially coz (sic) it's a vocational course they should have come into placement with me, worked alongside me for some time. I should have had a mentor on placement, I did ask for this. I should have had realistically because they knew it was harder for me than the others they should have said your not going to get through in three they should have extended the course to four years so they could have given the proper support in clinical. If I'd had the mentors the additional time I think I would have been successful.

Just explain what a mentor would do for you.

A mentor, because you're in a clinical environment they're not actually lecturers Or teachers they're just qualified (name of profession) - they don't really know how to teach students. If I could have worked with 2 or 3 people, work the same hours as them I would have built up more of a relationship with them they would have been able to understand they would be able to think maybe she's not getting this because of such and such. Sometimes I would be (carrying out a procedure) which is very noisy and someone would be standing next to me telling me instructions but I was busy concentrating on the patient because I didn't want them to fall off the table or check their breathing. But they seemed to think I wasn't concentrating or not listening to them.

Did you get in touch with any organisations such as the RNID for support?

I went to a couple of meeting with other students but I never met anyone actually studying on a vocational course with clinical placement going through the same problems as me. I was introduced to other deaf students but I was introduced to a profoundly deaf girl who was deaf from birth so her language was different her way of interaction was different, we got on well and we used to see each other quite regularly but .... I was introduced to somebody by email doing a Chemistry course. There are deaf (name of profession) in the country but I've never heard from them.

What are your thoughts about the medical profession in terms of a career path people with hearing impairment?

Very difficult because of the hierarchy of a hospital environment, because you are involved in interactions with hundreds of people in your daily work life it's very difficult to break barriers. I think the higher you go the worse it is, the Chief Superintendent at the hospital he was fine he actually did the interview for me he said 'I want you here I want to give you as much support as possible', but he was in the office. But the Superintendent on the shop floor she was saying ' she can't do this' straightaway. So no I don't recommend it anybody with an impairment who goes into it, departments themselves are not very deaf aware or not very friendly to people with an hearing impairment which I find very odd seeing as we are within an ageing population.

What are your hopes for the future then?

Yes even though the enquiry over my clinical competence, was unsuccessful if it had been successful I would have just finished my degree and I wouldn't have continued in that profession.

Because of the experience I 'd gone through it was the third time it had happened. I'd had the incident with the superintendent threatening me personally and then she wrote the assessment form which was non objective (place name) saw as victimisation anyway and then I had the incident at (hospital's name) I'd passed the 2nd year and gone back to clinical in February but they seemed to have a preconceived idea of she can't do this, They'd already made that judgement before the assessment was ever made.

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Other issues

Can you think of anything else to say or tell me?

Just really that I'm very very angry that any degree course that anybody takes is not easy, and I've worked very hard through the last two and a half years. I'd gone through successfully, I'd got good marks on my exams the practical work was perhaps borderline but if I had been given the help, I would have done a lot better been a lot more successful. I wouldn't particularly like to see anyone else go through this. It's just put me back from where I should be really.

Academically I want to continue. I think it's a shame for me to go through all this but not come out with a BSc at the end of it. I've proved myself more than capable. I think when I started I knew with my own mind that I would always have to work ten times harder to prove myself. I knew that, I think it was a bit of a shock to me as well because I was newly severely deaf. I didn't realise the extent of the barriers I would face which I do now.

What do you think of the DDA?

I think it's very good what is actually written in there is not unreasonable. Reasonable adaptions for workplace would account for absolutely anybody. If someone is five foot tall and can't reach a cupboard that's six foot high. It's not unreasonable for someone who is a little taller to say can you please pass me that. It's the same kind of thing. This kind of disability (hearing impairment) is very difficult because if I was in a wheelchair perhaps someone would open the door for me whether I wanted them to or not. Because it's unseen it's unnoticed, nobody takes any awareness of it. Perhaps this new act might help achieve that. Perhaps if people have a bad experience it might give a pathway for people to actually do something about it.

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